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Ciniselli
Monday, 20 November 2017 at 9:46am
Monday, 7 May 2018 at 5:34pm
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Thread: What should I do if I have lost faith in my work?

posted
07-May-18, 18:01
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posted about 7 months ago
I feel I should probably say that I don't consider the past 6 years to be worthless at all. I learned a new language, I married someone I love very much, and my personal/family life really is quite happy. I also learned a huge amount about I culture which fascinates me. All of those are to some degree or another linked to doing a PhD in the place I chose to do it. What I'm struggling with is whether it's really possible to advance in academia when I don't believe in my work.

What you do must be meaningful to you - possibly only you. ...
Evidence of this damage is seen with the first poster who is so obsessed with what other people think of their work that it is making them seriously unhappy.


If I truly did believe in my work myself, yes, that would be enough for me. If I really thought it was interesting, compelling, or even beautiful, then it would be different. But the simple truth is that I don't, and I can't force myself to believe in it. I thought this was normal insecurity for the last 5-6 years but recently I've realised that I fundamentally don't think that I've produced something that is good. I'm also not entirely sure I am capable of it either.

I appreciate that line I gave above about "the best years of my life" was a bit melodramatic. I'm sorry for the overstatement, it was childish and simplistic. I just mean that I have given this a lot of time and I just don't know that throwing more time at academia is a good idea.

Thread: What should I do if I have lost faith in my work?

posted
07-May-18, 12:46
edited about 30 seconds later
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posted about 7 months ago
Thank you for your replies everyone, I do appreciate it.

Unfortunately, I can't shake the feeling that this isn't just normal exhaustion or anxiety. I used to be really excited about being a historical researcher, but I don't actually think I am capable of doing the things that researchers I admire do. My project really isn't very rigorous and doesn't hold together at all. Every time I sit down to work at it, I become quite miserable and distracted, so the pace of the corrections has become glacial. Furthermore my university has turned me down for more teaching work because I am too experienced, but I can't really get anything else because of where I am with the PhD. I have no idea whatsoever how I am supposed to turn this work into publications. I certainly can't see any way that my work will stand up to further scrutiny if I don't actually believe in it myself.

I think this might have to be where I get off the academia train and try to find something I'm actually good at. I will plow through the corrections and try to make the next 6 months or so as bearable as possible. But for academia I really feel like I'm backing into a dead end that I don't have the right skills or capabilities to get out of. I started my Phd when I was 23, and I'm now 28. By the time I actually receive it (if I even do) there's a good chance I'll be 29. I've given this thing most of my 20s and I don't want to throw the best years of my life at something I don't actually have the aptitude for, however much I love it.

It's a hard, hard, realisation but that's just how it looks to me.

Thread: What should I do if I have lost faith in my work?

posted
20-Apr-18, 06:32
edited about 12 seconds later
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posted about 8 months ago
I don't expect my research to change lives. But I am not actually sure it really does make a contribution to knowledge, or that I actually truly believe the argument that it makes. I believe I can tick enough of my examiners' boxes to get the PhD passed, but I'm not sure I can publish anything with it if I don't actually believe in it.

Thread: What should I do if I have lost faith in my work?

posted
19-Apr-18, 17:26
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posted about 8 months ago
I'm in a long, long corrections phase at the moment after a viva that didn't go well at all. I came to the realisation recently that I fundamentally do not actually believe in my work, and that so much of what I've been doing for the past few years has been blagging and trying to persuade other people that it's valid and contributes something when it isn't and doesn't.

I sort of thought this was normal to feel insecure, so I brushed it off. But surely it can't be normal to feel that your work isn't actually valid or making any kind of contribution? That you can't actually do anything with it except scrape a pass on resubmission? The next stage of an academic career demands that I get publications out of my work - but how can I do that if I don't believe in it?

Thread: Revise & Resubmit - feeling humiliated

posted
25-Nov-17, 09:45
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posted about 1 year ago
In the event my supervisor told me he felt somewhat culpable, as both he and my second supervisor had told me to write the introduction and conclusion in certain ways that my examiners felt seriously undermined the thesis.

It is, however, my research and my name on the paper - which ultimately means that I must take responsibility for what's in it. I am comfortable with that, even though it is rather embarrassing. I find accepting it to be more calming than searching for reasons it isn't my fault, which was indeed my initial (panicked) reaction.

Thread: Revise & Resubmit - feeling humiliated

posted
22-Nov-17, 16:33
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posted about 1 year ago
Needless to say, while I intend to keep my relationship with my supervisor healthy, this experience has made me somewhat sceptical about his advice (and also that of my second supervisor). So I will look to getting my work proofread by more people before I resubmit, and to tackling the examiners' recommendations piece by piece.

Thread: Revise & Resubmit - feeling humiliated

posted
22-Nov-17, 16:28
edited about 17 seconds later
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posted about 1 year ago
bewildered: that sounds like an excellent plan, especially the chart. As you say, I am keen to get started on this process quickly and to figure out a structured way of going about it. Thank you very much for your advice.

Thread: Revise & Resubmit - feeling humiliated

posted
22-Nov-17, 16:26
edited about 22 seconds later
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posted about 1 year ago
Thanks for your messages, all.

I have calmed down somewhat and taken a more pragmatic view. Fundamentally, my examiners are just trying to guide me towards better scholarship. It is difficult - and to be really honest, quite embarrassing - to accept that I still need such extensive guidance when many of my peers do not, but I clearly do and denial won't help. Much as it hurts, I do feel grateful to my examiners for taking such a detailed look at my work and providing me with detailed instruction about how to improve. Guess I kinda forgot rule #1 in academia: don't take feedback personally.

Some (but by no means all) of the major points my examiners had a problem with are things my supervisor directly told me to do. My meeting with him was very, very encouraging, though. He was very supportive and I came out of the meeting feeling considerably less defeated than I did earlier int he day.

So, bit of a short-term meltdown, I suppose. I imagine it won't be the last one, either - PhD students are no stranger to those. But I am determined to finish this project and to finish it well.

Thread: Revise & Resubmit - feeling humiliated

posted
20-Nov-17, 09:58
Avatar for Ciniselli
posted about 1 year ago
I'm a PhD student in history. Had my viva a month ago... I felt it had been pretty average at the time. Before the viva, my supervisor had told me multiple times that I had every reason to be confident and that my work was very good. I was, therefore, quite shocked when my examiners gave me a revise & resubmit verdict with an 18-month deadline (albeit with no second viva).

On Friday, I got my examiners' report, and it was absolutely devastating. They completely tore me apart. I had made very serious errors in approach and write-up, gotten terminology wrong, and in general had presented my thesis very poorly. While my thesis had the "potential" to pass, it will require significant reworking.

Needless to say, this is an extremely humiliating experience, not least as I really thought I had produced something solid. I feel I have let myself down and wasted the last 3 years. I had niggling doubts about the quality of my work but I just figured that was normal for a PhD. What's worse is that I also teach - and I can't help but feel like a complete fraud when marking students' essays.

Meeting my supervisor later today. Not an experience I'm looking forward to.

Anybody have some R&R success stories to give me hope?
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